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2022 ATG Festival Orchestra – A Flash from the Past

This was a very special orchestra! Festival orchestras or other such groups with members of many different ages, musical abilities and backgrounds who come together just to play in a group often are not very dependable. The repertoire is sometimes too difficult for them or they haven’t made an effort to learn their assigned parts. This year’s group was indeed different!

I loved them the minute we played our first 8 measures together! They actually made some big musical dynamics sound big and also made an effort to play softer when appropriate. But what I really loved about them is the fact that everyone in the group seemed to be excited about being there and playing some really wonderful repertoire together with both strangers and friends.

“In the old days,” there were so many outstanding accordion orchestras throughout the USA, but today we rarely see a really large group. This means they probably do not have even enough members to cover all the parts, especially when there are indications for divisi. While it might be OK to try some of the big arrangements from those old days, it is rarely successful musically. To actually tackle a big piece like “Finlandia,” for example, you need numbers. A few really great players certainly could play the piece, but it will never have the dynamic impact that a group with many players will have. An orchestra simply must have a large number of players to play a large composition.

This 2022 ATG Festival Orchestra was large enough that we could play several pieces needing many players. The program was: Themes from Lawrence of Arabia …………… Maurice Jarre (Arr. by Bill Palmer & Bill Hughes) Paragon March …………………………………………………………………..… Anthony Galla-Rini Finlandia ……………………………………………….… Jean Sibelius (Arr by Anthony Galla-Rini) Epilogue ……………………………………… Dmitri Kabalevsky (Arr. by Anthony Galla-Rini) Lord of the Dance ………………………. Ronan Padraig Hardiman (Arr. by Hans Gunther Kölz) Medley from the Sound of Music … Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein … (Arr by Willard A. Palmer)

Initially we had over 80 accordionists signed up to play but, due to Covid and other concerns, we lost about 5 of them before the concert. In addition, we had a timpanist, a percussionist and a keyboard player.

I have been asked to conduct the 2023 ATG Festival Orchestra and I am already selecting the

repertoire for another large group. It is the hope that all players from 2022 plus others who

didn’t get to play will sign up once again. ATG is making it possible also for me to rehearse any

and all players who show up on a Saturday in May, exact date to be announced soon. I am sure

there will be a video made once again which will help everyone who cannot make it to the one

rehearsal in Chicago. Put the 2023 ATG Festival dates on your calendar right now. ATG is

making it possible for the Festival Orchestra to perform again in the beautiful Armerding

Concert Hall of Wheaton College. Let’s fill that concert stage with a real accordion orchestra

once again! I must end this report with a huge “thank you” to everyone who played in the group

this year. You were wonderful and I loved you! Joan Cochran Sommers

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